I am a Texan, born and raised. I am very proud of this fact. I'm even prouder of the fact that I'm a Houstonian. We have a rich history (literally and figuratively), our food can't be beat, and we gave the world Beyoncé Giselle Knowles.
"H-Town, comin' comin' down" - Almighty B
And despite my deep sense of pride for my city, I can still be disappointed by it. Take, for example, the recent repealing of HERO (Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance). The ordinance, which prohibited discrimination in housing and employment (among other things) based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and, most emphasized in the media, sexual identification, was repealed in a 61 to 39 percent vote.
The reasons it failed are simple: lies and transphobia.
Conservative city leaders (and my governor, Greg Abbott) blatantly lied to the people of Houston, misinforming them on a crucial piece of legislation. The entirety of HERO was reduced to one simple point: "men in women's bathrooms." The idea of a burly, tatted-up biker waking up one morning, saying "I'm a woman now!" and walking into a woman's restroom to do whatever he pleases struck terror in the hearts of many sad, simple voters. It became a joke to some, an all-too-real threat to others, and many failed to do their research, allowing men who believe that Jesus is one of the three branches of government to speak on their behalf and to sway their opinions in favor of discrimination.
They're here to use the potty.
What many failed to realize is that this ordinance affects so many more than transgendered people. The first paragraphs of the ordinance reads:
"Whereas, the City Council finds that all persons living in, working in, or visiting the City are entitled to be treated with equal dignity and respect and have to right to be free from discriminatory and unequal treatment; and
Whereas the City of Houston seeks to provide an environment that is free of any type of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy ("Protected Characteristics")"
It's an anti-discrimination law. It's a piece of legislation advocating for equality among everybody. Houston literally went to the polls to strike down equality.
I'm all for supporting individual rights. If a business owner wants to refuse service to an African-American or a lesbian, it's their right as an American and a private business owner. They're plain dumb (the only color I see is green $$$) and they should be ashamed of themselves, but that's their decision and I wholly believe that they're allowed to stick to their guns, which, in Houston, is a literal right. However, what I refuse to accept in our society, and in my city, is ignorance. The refusal to learn. The refusal to do your homework in order to understand what you're voting on and permitting religious figures to influence your opinion as a voter.
And before anyone attacks me with "well what if they did do their research and they collectively decided that it wasn't in their best interest?", the fact that the official battle cry of the opposition was "no men in women's bathrooms" tells me, in spades, that they did not take the time to understand the ordinance.
I love my city with all my heart and soul, and I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised. After all, this is the city that took so long to integrate its schools that it had to be forced by a federal judge to pick up the pace in 1970 (you know, almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education). Houston has never been and most likely will never be seen as progressive, why would they start now? If every Houstonian who voted against Proposition 1 checked the facts and made an informed decision, I wouldn't be nearly as angry as I am now. I can tolerate hate winning at the polls, but stupidity and fear-mongering should lose every time.
Should an occasion or a piece of legislation like this one be voted on again, I implore all of my fellow Houstonians to think. For the love of God, stop listening to your pastor and think for yourselves. You're an individual and you have power in our political system. Use it. Our Heavenly Father won't be waiting for you in the parking lot with a switchblade if you vote yes on something that will reduce (criminalize?) discrimination. From what I've read in the Bible, that's the kind of stuff that makes Him happy.
And if all that isn't enough to change your mind, keep in mind that Dallas has already passed a similar ordinance. Are y'all really going to let Dallas one-up us? Get it together, H-Town.
Think. Vote. Change. Please.